Basin Reserve Inquiry
Wellington needs the Basin Reserve flyover because cars are poised to become popular again, a transport expert says.
Timothy Kelly, who peer-reviewed the New Zealand Transport Agency's case for a $90 million flyover, lent his support to the project at its board of inquiry hearing in Wellington this morning.
The agency has applied for resource consent to build a two-lane highway flyover, 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve, linking the Mt Victoria Tunnel to Buckle St.
A four-member board of inquiry is considering the application. The two-month hearing is into its third week.
Today Mr Kelly attacked the view that the flyover was not needed because more young people were choosing not to own cars these days.
He acknowledged traffic growth had been low or flat in recent years, and that some of that could be attributed to declining car ownership.
But, in his view, the economic downturn was more to blame.
"This should be no surprise. We all know of individuals and companies who have restricted their travel as a result of belt-tightening during the period of economic contraction."
In recent months, economic indicators had been pointing to a return to more traffic growth as the economy rebounded, he said.
Mr Kelly also produced research by ANZ Bank that showed GDP growth since 2009 had been mirrored by a rise in the number of heavy vehicles on the nation's roads.
But Tom Bennion, lawyer for opposition group Save the Basin, criticized those numbers.
He produced his own set of data that showed while GDP had been going up, the total number of vehicle kilometres travelled across the country had been declining.
Mr Kelly also criticized those people who said the flyover was simply a solution to congestion problems around the Basin.
The project would also reduce crashes, provide more facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, and free up more space for public transport and emergency services to get around the Basin.
Other ideas, such as simply upgrading the existing roundabout, would not achieve these aims, he said.
"Even if the forecasts are wrong ... and public transport demand is slightly higher, then public transport users are still provided for by this project, and that's a better position to be in."
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